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Former United Nations Ambassador Questions Policy on Hostages

November 12, 1986

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick said Tuesday that reported efforts by the Reagan administration to use arms deals with Iran to free hostages in Lebanon amounted to paying ransom and said it could lead to more hostage- taking.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick, who was a member of President Reagan’s Cabinet until last year, said she had no inside information about the reported secret arms deal. But she said from what had been made public, she was sure that the administration had not violated any U.S. law in the operation.

″I feel that our government has behaved with meticulous care (to obey the law) about this, but whether they have behaved wisely is another question,″ she said.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s comments came during a speech to the annual convention of the U.S. League of Savings Institutions and, afterward, in answer to reporters’ questions.

In Washington, however, Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., said Tuesday that any shipment of American arms to Iran would violate two U.S. laws.

Reagan, as recently as Monday, said through spokesman Larry Speakes that no laws had been, or will be, violated.

In a telephone interview, Berman said the Arms Export Control Act flatly bans any such exports. On Monday, two men were sentenced under this law for sales to Iran.

Berman said another law, the Export Administration Act, requires notifying Congress 30 days in advance of any sale. The notice is required if a license is to be issued to ship more than $1 million worth of military goods to any country on the State Department’s list of those that support terrorism.

Iran is on that list, along with Syria, Cuba, Libya and South Yemen.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick said she was worried that the episode will not result in the freeing of more hostages, because of heavy news coverage, and in fact could prompt the taking of more hostages.

″History suggests that such dealing on hostages leads to more hostages just as paying off blackmail leads to more blackmail,″ she said. ″My view is that it probably won’t work this time. It never seems to work.″

She said that there have been more hostages taken since both the United States and France have been conducting secret negotiations with Iran.

″This is what worries me about paying ransom,″ she said. ″You can’t say that the fact that there were negotiations caused the hostages to be taken ... but I personally worry a lot about that.″

On Monday night, Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., said that if reports of the administration’s arms deals with Iran were true, ″then it’s the biggest mistake this country’s ever made.″

Goldwater, retiring from the Senate, said he understood Reagan’s motives, but still could not justify any administration dealings with Iran.

″I know that the president wants to get the hostages back home,″ he said during an appearance in Birmingham, Ala. ″But they’re like prisoners of war; when you have a prisoner of war, you don’t endanger the lives of the whole country to get one man out of prison.″

Mrs. Kirkpatrick refused to say whether she would have argued against sending former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane to Iran to negotiate, saying she would need to know more about the information the administration had before it took the action.

She said she did know that Israel has had discussions with Iran for the last five or six years and she said ″I judge we dealt through Israel largely on this matter.″

She said Israel is not the only country which has conducted secret discussions with Iran or knew that America was doing so.

″We didn’t fool anybody but ourselves by this,″ she said, saying a lot of countries including Britain, France, the Netherlands and Iraq, knew that the administration was dealing with Iran.

″The Iraqis knew that there were American spare parts reaching Iran before we did and the Iraqi ambassador had gone to the White House and the State Department to try to find out what was going on,″ she said.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick said suggestions that American allies were shocked about the disclosures of the McFarlane visit or that the United States had lost credibility ″were for the birds.″

″Our actions were clearly not consistent with our policies on terrorism, but we should stop pretending that governments should be held to some sort of standard of perfect consistency,″ she said. ″There is no government in the contemporary world that does not under difficult circumstances, such as hostages, conduct inquiries and have dealings under the table.″

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